Biophilic Design Connects Guests to Nature

biophilic design -- green

Few trends become staples that guests return to throughout their stay. However, new research suggests that properties that incorporate plants and natural elements into their spaces see more guests using those spaces and returning to them.

Carpet design company Interface in conjunction with sustainability consulting firm Terrapin Bright Green released a new study on how biophilic designs—those that connect guests with nature—impact hotel spaces. David Gerson, vice president of marketing for Interface who participated in the research, says, “We always try to remind people that one plant does not make a biophilic design. It’s a holistic approach to design using concepts that we’ve appreciated throughout our evolutionary, binary history.”

Many plants and biophilic materials play to guests’ five senses and each sensory element adds a deeper level of complexity to the hotel experience. Charley Knight, vice president of Interface, says, “It goes down to the practice of biophilic design, and part of that execution is when there’s a natural analog in the space inadvertently and subtly. The folks who are practicing this with a lot of intent and thought have an impact on the guest because they’re not trying to slap them around with it. It has to be a more subtle approach.”

Varying materials can appeal to each sense. Design elements can be materials like stone and wood, a thunderstorm or jungle soundtrack, or organically shaped furniture; anything reminiscent of nature is considered biophilic design. Gerson says, “There are different ways we can blend biophilic designs at hotels. I can touch something or hear something–it’s really all around us. That’s how you create a true environment that people want to stay in for longer periods.”


Interface’s research found that hotels will charge an 11 to 18 percent premium for rooms with waterfront views and a 12 percent premium for a famous landmark view. Connecting the guest to nature and historical cities adds to the guest experience, and, in turn, increases revenue. Whether traveling for business or leisure, guests view their rooms as a sanctuary to relax and unwind. Interface’s research also shows that adding organic materials in guestrooms affect the guest’s well-being more positively than a conventional room without those elements.

Guestroom positivity affects online reviews as well, and according to the report, living spaces with biophilic designs were rated two times higher than those without. Knight adds, “One thing we discovered was the word ‘experience,’ whatever that word means to a guest, was used two times as much in the review process than a hotel that didn’t have biophilic elements.”

But sometimes, too many plants and organic elements will deter guests in the hospitality space. Gerson says, “It’s this idea that we live too disconnected from nature, and if you try to throw someone into an uncontrolled jungle environment with greenery everywhere, it’s too dark and insecure. It can throw people the wrong way.”

Restaurants are just one hospitality sector that can either have too much or too little biophilic décor. In fact, Gerson notes that people are willing to spend 25 percent more on a food and beverage item that gives them an experience. People prefer “refuge and prospect,” according to Gerson—refuge in a restaurant can mean that a guest would prefer a booth over a table in the middle of a restaurant so that they are protected from each angle. However, they also want prospect, like a booth with one or two steps to entry where they have a view of the restaurant and can notice passerby. But if a space has too many biophilic elements and obscures views, people can’t see what’s coming and feel unsafe.

Hoteliers who add plants and organic materials effectively on their properties can tap into unseen revenue as guests spend more time in areas that have attractive, natural elements. Knight explains, “It’s about creating an experience and how a hotel guest is going to interact with that property. It’s really about the positive experience, having an interior climate that contributes to the well-being of the guest.”

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Robin McLaughlin is digital editor of LODGING.


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